in your eyes; the light, the heat

In the morning: my sinuses squeak open like a rusty gate. They literally emit a pitched squeal, like someone deflating a mostly-full inner tube by sitting on it. My eyes are Ping Pong balls trapped under a couch for six months and just now retrieved. My throat scratches. Nothing I do between April 2nd and May 31st will prevent me from waking up feeling like this.

I stumble for the kitchen cabinet and take my daily dose of generic allergy medication (free of pseudoephedrine). I bought this while drunk at the CVS around the corner a few months back. It’s a year’s supply: works for 24 hours, supposedly, and contains 365 little white pills. Given my typical schedule of suffering, this should last me for at least five years. Unless I upgrade from “buying allergy meds while drunk” to “consuming them while drunk” and drop twenty in a panic. Is it even possible to OD on allergy meds – not counting the ones that make you drowsy? Picture two uniforms, a plainclothes and an EMT standing over my corpse. “His body couldn’t handle having sinuses that clear. Wheel him out, boys.”

Living in the densely urban but unpredictably cold American Northeast, my allergy season runs somewhere between April and May. I can count on the odd cold snap to startle trees into silence, but once it gets warm there’s nothing I can do but suffer. I have stylish new glasses to ease my contact lenses, and I’ll soon have a decent vacuum to keep the apartment pollen-free. But until Memorial Day passes I just stagger through the morning and go to bed before midnight.

It could be worse.

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it longs to kill you; are you willing to die

Allergies have struck back with a vengeance in the last forty-eight hours. Itchy eyes, congested nose, gravelly thick voice. Things got so bad this morning that I took one of my jealously hoarded pseudoephedrine.

I have given up trying to predict allergy reactions based on the weather. Two Saturdays ago, the weather was sunny, 80 degrees and breezy; I felt fine. This week it’s been rainy and in the 50s and I’ve been miserable.

So forget the weather report. Forget the pollen count. A decade in Boston has taught me plenty. If I can make it through Memorial Day, I’ll be fine.

then froze, only to blow the herb smoke through my nose

I hadn’t gone to 90s Night in a while, and my friend Meghan O’ also expressed a desire to go dancing. So after sharing some excellent Upper Crust pizza with Melissa and Fraley over the BSG finale, we trucked to Allston and shook it all out. The dance floor seemed more crowded but less sketchy than usual.

# # #

I bought an Afrin Pure Sea nasal rinsing … thing … about a week ago and started using it this weekend after some congestion. I can’t figure the damn thing out.

Both the bottle and the box ask me to refer to the insert for instructions, but the instructions aren’t so complicated that they couldn’t print them elsewhere. (1) Tilt your head all the way to one side. (2) Jam bottle into nose. (3) Let stream flow into upper nostril and out lower nostril.

I can manage step 1 just fine, but I may be failing on step 2. What inevitably happens is a stream of diluted seawater flows back out the nostril it went in, trickling down the side of my face and into my sideburns and ear. I wait there over the sink until my dignity returns, then cap the bottle, wipe my face and neck off and blow my nose vigorously. The result is marginally clearer breathing.

Possible issues:


  • Maybe I’m too congested in the nostril I’m trying. What if I stick the bottle up the clearer nostril first, and let the stream clear out the blockage with the aid of gravity?
  • Maybe I shouldn’t be holding my breath. Is that how the nose works? If I hold my breath, am I sealing up the necessary sinus cavities?
  • Maybe my head’s not tilted far enough to one side.
  • Maybe this is a scam.

Any advice, Internet?

I’m the daddy of the mac, daddy

I got sucked into the videos at TED.com late on Sunday night and lost an hour or so watching them. If you only have time to watch one video in your busy day, watch Ken Robinson’s talk on how institutional education kills creativity. It has the virtues of being both moving and entertaining:

(I can’t embed the video, despite three tries, so just view it on the TED.com site)

Memorial Day hangs on the calendar as my Point of No Return for the allergy season. If I can survive Memorial Day weekend, I’m good for the rest of the year. If I can’t survive Memorial Day weekend then, well, I suppose I’ll have other things to worry about.

As of last night, the current project sits at 60,000 words (Microsoft count, not estimated count). I think I just passed the halfway point last night. I don’t know if that means I have another 60,000 words of manuscript to generate, but I know that the ball needs to start rolling a little faster at this point.

I spent $60 on gas on Sunday.

More updates as the situation warrants.

there’s one more kid that’ll never go to school

Allergies have returned with a vengeance. A heavy medical cocktail – two snoots of Nasonex, 10 mg of Zyrtec and some prescription eye drops – have staved off the worst of it so far. This morning, I merely felt severely congested and only one eye looked red enough to merit suspicions of a drug test. Which I would have passed, thank you. Winners don’t use, because users don’t win.

The weather gizmo on my desktop says yesterday’s high was 78. Today’s: 58. New England – the cradle of our nation, folks!

Several people have asked what I think of the economy in the past week or so. I don’t have any insight that you couldn’t draw from reading any major paper. Things grow worse. Once I get some money to move around I intend to invest in a mix of ETFs from Vanguard. But you shouldn’t necessarily take my advice on where to put money. How the economy‘s doing and how I’m doing don’t always go hand in hand – and that’s presuming I even get the first part right.

Plus, my ideas change constantly. I used to want to save up enough to buy my own place. But then someone (either Julian Sanchez or Will Wilkinson) made the point that young, single people rarely improve their lot by buying a house. Once you get tied to a significant investment of real estate, you can’t pack up and move on a month’s notice. Now’s the time I should be chasing job opportunities, crazy projects or hot blondes with a passion for Chandler novels, 70s movies and straight whiskey. Call the difference between my rent and a mortgage (less interest deductions) a flexibility premium. I’m happy to pay.

My point: listen to me if you like, but don’t follow me out onto the lake.

A rare end-week media blow: The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood. I don’t suppose I need to lend my voice to the volumes of critical praise for this novel, other then: yeah, that. Flynngrrl had a post once about a Supreme Court decision on abortion. In it, she made the point that the question of abortion rights comes down to one fundamental fork in the road: either you believe a woman owns her body or you don’t. Either a woman has an inherent value outside of her social role as Childbearer, or she doesn’t. The Handmaid’s Tale gives us a world where this question has been decided.

I don’t think it presents a realistic view of how religious fundamentalists would seize control of the United States (I hardly think they’d need to gun down Congress). But it doesn’t have to. Good science-fiction doesn’t look for the most likely future outcome starting from today’s events. Rather, it starts from a What If (no matter how outlandish), grounds it in verisimilitude, then rolls from there. And Atwood pulls that off beautifully.

And not only does Handmaid move and inform and signify (yeah, yeah, trivial accomplishments, those), but Atwood’s style amazed me, too. She uses a remarkable economy of language to describe the protagonist’s conflicted emotions – her loathing of her captors, her fearful desire to obey, her absolute and paranoid despair, her nostalgia for an admittedly troubled past, and so forth. Finding a novel this powerful leaves an impression on you; finding a novel this well-written delights you.